Life as a Mother of Two


I’m not gonna lie… life right now is tough! I mean, really tough. The sort of tough where you don’t even look forward to bedtime because you know tomorrow will be more of the same. I’ve started measuring my life by hours, not days. Because they’re all the same, and to measure them by the days would just be too depressing.

I think maybe we took Nookie’s acceptance of the new baby for granted. Because suddenly she is NOT happy! And it’s not manifesting itself so much as a resentment of Smushface, as she still obviously adores her. Instead she has become super high-demanding, attached, emotional… every difficult phase she’s ever been through all rolled into one! Suddenly I can’t leave the house again without her, and she doesn’t want to leave either so I’m basically trapped indoors. She won’t speak to other children at all. I’ve stopped taking her to groups because she would spend the whole time refusing to speak to anyone, and not letting me speak to anyone either. When we’re at home all she wants to do is play Minecraft with me, and the second I stop to do anything at all she’s on the verge of a meltdown. Smushface hardly gets a look in. I spend about 6 hours a day most days playing Minecraft – sometimes more.

It’s taking it’s toll on me. The days and weeks roll together into one long fugue of Minecraft, preventing meltdowns, feeding Smushface and housework… because that’s all I ever do. I haven’t seen any friends for weeks. We’ve only really left the house to go food shopping (with the exemption of a couple of family evenings out), and even that required sometimes hours of negotiation and arguing. And on top of all that Smushface has been teething for months now and is constantly unsettled, needing me to rock her for hours most evening and waking up the second I put her down when she’s asleep.

It’s intense. But then that’s always been Nookie – intense. She doesn’t cope with change well. We should have remembered that and anticipated it a bit more.

But still, we’re trying our damnedest to accommodate her. I’ve fallen back on my wonderful supportive friends, if only via Facebook and email, hounded those excellent Radical Unschooling Facebook groups I’m part of with my questions, and received some brilliant suggestions and insights, and I’m reading books to help me understand how to approach things differently. I give Nookie as much time and attention as I can, and try to empathise with her emotional meltdowns. I lean on Hedgehog, and he leans on me. I take a deep breath, and every morning I wake up and do it all again, even though I know it’ll be just the same. I wake up each morning with a smile on my face, kiss my children, and prepare myself for another day of absolute selflessness. And try not to go totally insane…

And remind myself that this too shall pass. And soon (not fucking soon enough!) it’ll be summer again, and Nookie will come out of her cocoon and want to interact with the world again (I HOPE!).

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A Week of Unschooling: Stop-Motion and Creepypasta


Lately Nookie has been really into stop-motion animation. We watched the film The Boxtrolls and at the end of it is a little extra footage of the clay characters being manipulated by a person, at super-speed. Nookie wanted to know what it was, so we discussed stop-motion animation, how it’s done, and then I found an app for my phone that lets you take a series of photographs and puts them together into your own animation. After weeks of playing about with it Nookie has made dozens of short, seconds-long animations of various toys moving around, foods gradually being eaten, etc (I take the pictures, she moves the characters). She loves it.

Her other current passion is Creepypastas. She discovered the characters Slenderman, Jeff the Killer and Ticci Toby through various YouTube videos, and then we did a bit of research and found the original short stories (Creepypastas) that they came from. She loved the very macabre stories, and has also had fun painting her face and mine to look like Jeff the Killer and Slenderman.

Here’s what else we’ve been doing over the last week or so:

* Reading her favourite Dirty Bertie stories over and over again.

* Watching people playing various computer games on YouTube (Octodad, Happy Wheels, Minecraft, etc).

* Watching videos of pranks of YouTube, including Jackass and SA Wardega.

* Making biscuits, cutting the dough into various shapes and decorating them using food colouring pens.

* Making stop-motion animation videos using playmobil and play doh.

* Playing Horrid Henry with various toys taking the place of the characters in the cartoon.

* Playing Hide and Seek.

* Painting her face and mine like Jeff the Killer and Slenderman.

* Watching Slenderman videos.

* Reading Creepypastas together.

* Playing Happy Wheels, Sonic the Hedgehog, Temple Run 2, and Plants vs Zombies.

* Painting pictures, and decorating them with glitter.

* We downloaded Minecraft for the X-box 360, and she has been doing really well at learning to use the control pad. We’ve experimented with redstone and learned about how switches and electric circuits work.

* Watching Stampylongnose Minecraft videos on YouTube.

* Watching lots of films including The Boxtrolls, Scooby Doo movies, The Book of Life, Frankenweenie, Wreck it Ralph.

* Watching Sanjay and Craig and Spongebob Squarepants.

* Helping me take care of her baby sister. We’ve had lots of discussions about how babies grow and develop.

* Drawing pictures of stick men and various other things, then animating them using an app on the tablet.

* Making up stories for me to draw.

* Making her own books by sticking in stickers and getting me to illustrate the rest of the story and write down what the characters are saying.

* We discussed the concept of pocket money, and Nookie negotiated an amount of money and what day she would be paid it on. Then we counted out the decided amount of money, and talked about how much that would buy her. Then she decided to spend it on eBay, so I opened the app for her and let her choose something to spend the money on. We discussed the concept of bidding on something, but not necessarily winning it. (She did win the item and was very pleased with her purchase when it arrived in the post. She’s already trying to decide what to spend her next lot of pocket money on).

* We’ve done lots of looking at the clock and discussing what the time is. She seems very interested in learning to tell the time at the moment, so I bought her a giant poster with a dry-marker, bare clock face to draw the clock times on, which we have used.

* We’ve discussed what lots of different words say, and she’s constantly asking me how to spell various words. She’s also learning how to read big numbers through playing the game Temple Run 2 – each time she gets a score she lists the numbers and asks me what those numbers make (e.g. 155,500 – what that number is).

* Playing with Lego to build a spaceship.

* Building her very first snow man when it snowed.

* By herself she discovered Crafty Carol on Cool School, on YouTube, and after watching her make a few crafts we went and made a snow globe and an “under-the-sea” bottle.

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Breastfeeding: Take Two


Smushface is now 12 weeks old. Wow, where did the time go?! So I figure it’s about time I spoke properly about breastfeeding her. You see, Nookie was a bit crazy about breastfeeding. She nursed until she was 3.5, and when she was a baby she wanted to constantly feed. It was really hard going. She wouldn’t take a bottle, would wake me up all through the night to nurse, and would generally only be settled if she had a boob in her mouth!

Smushface really couldn’t be more different. As with sleep, her nursing habits are completely the opposite. Honestly, she could take it or leave it! She’ll nurse when she’s hungry, and that’s it. If I try to put her on the breast when she’s not hungry she will loudly protest. She’s really quite happy sitting in her bouncer watching the world, nursing for ten minutes here and there when she’s hungry, and that’s it. I can’t get used to it. I keep trying to feed her, presuming she must be hungry, only to be met with screaming until I put her down again. It’s so weird.

We have our share of difficulties though. I’ve already had mastitis once, and I’m one of those women who has an over-supply of milk and really fast flow. So we get the typical coughing and choking when my milk lets-down, and my breasts are swollen for most of the day, up until the evening when Smushface nurses a bit more frequently. (She doesn’t cluster-feed like Nookie did, but she does nurse more frequently). She often starts to nurse and then screams. I’m not sure if this is my fast-flow or a little bit of reflux, but either way it’s usually solved by laying back and nursing Smushface by laying her on my belly.

But mostly what I wanted to say was how good it is to be nursing a baby again. You forget all the little things… like when they’re nursing and then stop for a moment to smile at you and coo; the way their hands do what they like while they’re nursing; the feeling of closeness and bonding you get.

Nursing a baby is sometimes tough. It’s sometimes hard. And in the early days it can be downright painful! But it’s SO worth it. The realisation that you make the food that nourishes your baby, physiologically and emotionally, is incredibly powerful. I can feed my baby any time, simply by whipping out my breast. It’s so incredibly convenient. I love breastfeeding. One day I won’t be nursing a child any more, and I know I’ll really miss it. I miss nursing Nookie, even though she was hard going at times, and I’m savouring the breastfeeding relationship I have with Smushface. All too soon it’ll be over.

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Just So You Know…


This morning, after waking up and organising the kids, I took Smushface downstairs with me whilst I changed the cat litter, took out the recycling, and swept the kitchen. She sat there in her bouncer, happily watching me, cooing to herself… just an ordinary morning. But I never take it for granted.

Only when you’ve had a baby who cries the second she is put down do you realise just how difficult being a parent can be! Nookie was the absolute polar opposite to Smushface. Just a brief browse through my early blog posts will tell you as much. She would cry most of the night, want to be constantly attached to my breasts, would not let anyone except me anywhere near her, and refuse to be put down. Contrast that with Smushface who has slept through the night (pretty much) since she was born, will only feed when she’s actually hungry (and cry if I attempt to feed her when she’s not!), will smile and coo at anyone who talks to her, and will happily sit in her bouncer watching the world for quite a while before getting upset.

But I’m glad Nookie was the way she was! I’m glad I had such a slap-in-your-face introduction to parenting and had to adapt. It was bloody nightmarish at the time, but I’ve come through it a stronger person and learned more than I could have ever imagined. I wouldn’t be the person I am now, with the friends I have now, if I hadn’t had to learn so much to cope with Nookie’s temperament. I’m also glad I never became one of those smug parents who think parenting is easy because they happened to have a baby like Smushface the first time around. I remember one of those parents who made me feel so bad when Nookie was a toddler… “My daughter isn’t like that!” she said smugly to a Facebook status I had posted about how difficult Nookie was being on one particular day. The implication that it was somehow my fault that Nookie was such hard work hung in the air, as it has done in numerous conversations throughout Nookie’s babyhood.

Well, now all the doubters can see. It wasn’t me who somehow created a difficult child who cried most of the night. It wasn’t my fault Nookie wouldn’t go to anyone but me. I hadn’t somehow indulged her, spoiled her, and thus created a difficult child. Smushface is the easiest baby you could possibly imagine. And we’re parenting her pretty much the same way as we did Nookie (the slight difference being we’re a lot more relaxed with Smushface than we were with Nookie, and I have had a sling from day one). She’s a different child. REVELATION! Children are different! Who’d have thunk it?!

To all the parents out there who have “difficult” babies. Who cringe when people ask the inevitable “is he/she a GOOD baby” (because, you know, there’s no other question to ask). Who are enduring sleepless nights, sore nipples from the constant feeding, and a feeling of isolation because they dare not leave the house… Don’t worry. It’s not you. Some babies are “easy”. Some babies sleep through the night. Some babies are calm and contented. But some babies aren’t! It’s nothing you did! Just accept them for who they are, get a warped sense-of-humour, drink some coffee, and remember THIS TOO WILL PASS. One day you’ll have a beautiful four year old who was worth every second of that hardship and who is spunky and individual. You’ll have grown as a person in more ways than you can imagine. You’ll know you can handle just about anything! And you’ll look back and wonder how it all went by so fast!

Baby Nookie

Baby Nookie

Baby Smushface

Baby Smushface

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2014: A Year in Books

It’s that time again. Time to link up with Click Clack Gorilla for her yearly run-down of what books we’ve read over the year (though she always blows everyone else out of the water!). My target for this year was 50. Let’s see how I did. Here is what I’ve read this year:

1. The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom by Mary Griffiths

2. Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

3. Lord of Mountains by S.M. Stirling

4. The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris

5. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

6. How Children Fail by John Holt

7. The Given Sacrifice by S.M. Stirling

8. ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

9. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

10. Wild: The Biography of Jack Nicholson by John Parker

11. Homebirth: The Essential Guide to Giving Birth Outside of the Hospital by Sheila Kitzinger

12. Dark Matter by Michelle Paver

13. The Hymn by Graham Masterton

14. Home Birth: A Practical Guide by Nicky Wesson

15. Active Birth: The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally by Janet Balaskas

16. Food Ninjas: How to Raise Kids to be Lean, Mean, Eating Machines by Matt Stone

17. Hypnobirthing: The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan

18. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

19. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

20. The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A.N. Roquelaure

21. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

22. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

So, OK, I didn’t even get close to 50. In my defence I did have a baby this year, which has kind of eaten into my reading time! And the Game of Thrones series of books are huge.

So this year I’ve obviously read a lot of books about childbirth. I also read a couple of e-books (Food Ninjas and The Secret Garden). They were OK: useful for reading on the go or at night when it’s dark. But I still prefer to have a real, paper book in my hand.

This year I read a couple of books I’ve wanted to read for a long time: The Secret Garden (which I’ve been meaning to read since I was a kid and fell in love with the film), and Angela’s Ashes. They were both brilliant.

Disappointment came with Great Expectations. I’ve tried and failed to read Dickens before but figured I’d give him another try. I stuck with this book through sheer will alone, but I didn’t enjoy it. I found it really hard going: dry, too wordy and with a confusing, seemingly pointless story. I’m sure there will be people out there screaming at me, but meh. I’ve read classics and loved them. But Dickens just doesn’t do it for me.

I also started and gave up on Naked Lunch. Hedgehog loves this book so I reckoned it might be worth a read. But even with his advice on how to read and understand it, I still couldn’t make head nor tail of it! I stuck with it for about a hundred pages until I wanted to rinse my brain out. That was enough for me!

But crowning glory has to go to George R.R. Martin’s books. I love the TV series and I love the books even more, even though I know what’s going to happen. They are fantastic books that I’m loathe to put down.

I already have a huge pile of books waiting to be read in 2015, so let’s see if I can hit 50 this year shall we?

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